In this article I’m going to get into what a distribution deal is, and whether or not an indie artist should sign into one.
There are six main music distribution deals to choose from and I’m going to briefly describe them so you can see what options are available to you as an artist if you take the distribution route.
What Is A Distribution Deal
A music distribution deal is an agreement between two parties to distribute a product. So it would be an agreement between an artist and a record label for that record label to promote, advertise, and distribute an artist’s album.
Standard Music Distribution Deal
A standard music deal today is when a record label promotes and advertises an album release of their artist whom they have a distribution agreement with. The record label will handle all the promotion and advertising, while they hire a manufacturing company to do the actual distribution of your album.
Promotion of your album includes paying for features in magazines, designing promotional blog and social media content, and making you meet with press and other media outlets to talk about the release of your album.
This deal in many ways is similar to the Standard Deal but the artist gets to keep his/her copyrights and ownership of their master recordings.
In this agreement the artist grants permission for the record label (for a contractual limited time) to license their music to TV, Film, Radio etc for a fee. They also handle the promotion and marketing for your album. A good example of this is Arcade Fire’s License deal with Merge Records.
Profit Sharing Deal
A profit sharing deal is where you and your record label share the profits of the album that is being manufactured and sold. In this distribution deal it’s standard that an artist keeps all copyright ownership of his masters. It’s common that the artist gets a small advance and once that advance is recouped, the income from each album sold is split 50/50 between the record label and artist.
Just like the other distribution agreements the record label handles the promotion, advertising, and manufacturing of the album.
Distribution & Manufacturing
A Distribution & Manufacturing deal, D&M for short, is a contractual agreement between a record label and a music distributor. With this particular agreement the distributor pays for the manufacturing of the album, then recoups the costs from the album sales.
Keep in mind that your record label will not make any money from album sales until all costs of manufacturing the albums are paid back through sales to the manufacturer. These deals are harder to find now a days any way.
The last type of distribution is the self distribution model. This is where you cover the cost of everything from creating the music, paying producers for instrumentals –
pressing copies for the cd, cd packaging, promotion and distribution. Of course it’s obvious that this part is the most costly and can be risky as well.
Your self distribution methods are up to you, you can sell them at your shows, online through your own website, or sell them on tour. You can also determine for yourself how much CDs you want to press up, and once you sell those you can press up another set.
There is more creative control using this method but more of a financial burden on the artist. But none the less thousands of artist do it all the time and many have had great success with it.